By | Monday, April 28, 2008 Leave a Comment
A couple of weeks ago, I was at my local comic shop and the owner told me that he had recently picked up several boxes of comics that I might be interested in; lots of off-the-beaten-path stuff. As I began browsing through the boxes, I did indeed find a number of things I'd been interested in... complete runs of The Waiting Place vol. 2, Mister X, and Heart of Empire for example. I also stumbled across a complete set of Colonia by Jeff Nicholson.

The story opens with Jack and his two uncles escaping from a pirate ship as it goes up in flames. We soon learn that their modern casual dress is not in fact apocryphal, and that they seem to have slipped from their present into a world who's reality is similar, but markedly different than our own. Things become more surreal as Jack meets another band of pirates, headless Spanish Conquistadors, a slip-side traveler from yet another reality, a talking duck named Lucy, some mermaids, an angry tribe of Aztecs, and a group of semi-intelligible, bowling dwarves who've captured Jack's grandfather believing him to be Rip Van Winkle. Not surprisingly, Jack and his family just want to go home, so they use the golden eggs laid by Lucy to fund the pirates' sojourn up the coast of Colonia to where Massachusetts (and their home) ought to be.

The story is somewhat reminiscent of other fanciful, stranger-in-a-strange-land stories like Wizard of Oz or Abadazad. One of the twists here, though, is that the bizarre qualities of this new world aren't as immediately apparent and even those that are noticed are initially written off by the protagonists as eccentricities. What's easier to believe, after all: that you've been captured by time-displaced pirates or that you've been captured by some modern pirates who dress up in 17th century style clothing? That you've been talking to a six-foot tall man with fish for his heads, hands and feet or that you bumped your head on a rock when you washed ashore?

Despite the cursory similarities to other stories in that ballpark, Colonia does not really draw upon them directly, preferring instead to recreate the general feeling of wonder and adventure, rather than rehashing existing material. Creator Jeff Nicholson does an admirable job presenting the story, as well, as readers experience the oddities of this world right alongside Jack. We know what he knows, and the mystery of how he ended up on this world is revealed to us in exactly the same way one might unravel the problem if you were experiencing it first-hand.

The art is generally charming. There's something of a simplicity to it that invites the reader in. Of particular interest to me is that, despite the simplicity, the characters are all readily identifiable at a glance and all of the female characters sport different looks and body types. This is NOT like the art one might find in an Archie book where Betty and Veronica only differ in their hair color.

There were a couple of spots which seemed at something of a discord with the rest of the books. Not that those portions were badly drawn, mind you -- in fact, they were drawn better than the rest of the book, as Nicholson was using reference material. Fortunately, the references are mainly limited to buildings and structures so the characters are able to remain consistent throughout the series.

I was actually somewhat disappointed when I got to the end of #11 to see Jack being captured in a classic "to be continued" moment. From the research I had done, there's been no 12th issue in the several years since it was published. Even after the whole series had been collected in TPB form by AiT/Planet Lar. Although his Colonia Press web site seems to be down now, a cached Google version of it cites a third trade paperback coming in 2009 with entirely new material, presumably picking up where #11 leaves off. That should give curious readers ample time to track down the first two trades and read them before the next chapter is released.
Newer Post Older Post Home